On Tuesday, Feb. 9, Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguín (District 4) will introduce a resolution to draft the ordinance, which could also provide tax incentives and educational resources to worker cooperatives.
By Sustainable Economies Law Center Executive Director, Janelle Orsi
Imagine that a group of people works hard to fill their neighborhood with urban farms, bike lanes, parks, murals, community services, and education programs. Next, imagine that those same people are forced to move away. Ouch, that bites.
Sadly, this is real: Improving the livability of a previously disinvested neighborhood creates opportunities for speculators, landlords, and developers to increase rents and drive up the cost of property, often causing displacement of the very people who made the neighborhood livable to begin with.Read more
By Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) Summer Intern, Adrien Salazar
Communities of color have played and continue to play a pivotal role in realizing alternative economies in response to chronic economic exclusion in the United States. The history of civil rights is entwined with the history of cooperative economics in the United States. Jessica Gordon Nembhard, in her book Collective Courage, demonstrates this history in her account of black cooperatives and collectives in the United States. Nembhard documents the many black communities that organized cooperatives by necessity to build economic power in marginalized communities.Read more
By Sara Stephens, Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) Housing and Cooperatives Attorney
We want to create a worker cooperative…what legal entity should we form?
This is probably the most common question I hear at our Resilient Communities Legal Cafes. Lots of entrepreneurs come to us wanting to form a worker-owned business, but they are unsure what legal structure will work best for them. Are they required to form as a cooperative corporation? What if they’re not ready to incorporate yet? Can they form as an LLC or some other entity and still be a cooperative? What are the benefits and drawbacks of the entity options?Read more
Host your own "Learning to Think Outside the Boss" workshop!
Thank you for your interest in hosting"Learning to Think Outside the Boss: An Introductory Workshop on the Legal Nuts and Bolts of Starting a Worker Cooperative!" Below, find resources we've created to teach about how the law works in, against, and for worker cooperatives. This is a shorter, participatory, discussion-orientated version of our half day "Think Outside the Boss" workshop.
NOTE: These materials are updated at irregular intervals and might change from time to time. Updates are based on feedback from participants and those who facilitate the "Learning to Think Outside the Boss" workshop. Please send questions, feedback, or comments about this guide to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is it?
This workshop provides an introduction to the practical steps individuals and groups need to take to establish, build, and successfully manage a cooperative enterprise. This introductory workshop attempts to bring forward basic legal and structural questions such as what is a cooperative, what is a legal entity, what rules govern fundraising and financing for cooperatives, and more. This workshop provides an overview of the content contained in Sustainable Economies Law Center's Think Outside the Boss: How to Create a Worker-Owned Business manual.
Why Do it?
This workshop is meant to provide an introduction for those looking to support cooperative development and for entrepreneurs and activists seeking to build a worker cooperative. By the end of the workshop, participants should be able to
- have a basic understanding of the cooperative form from a functional and principled perspective,
- understand the Cooperative Principles in practice,
- distinguish cooperatives from other business forms,
- distinguish between the different kinds of cooperatives,
- understand basic questions that should be asked when founding a worker cooperative,
- and think about cooperatives as they relate to the needs in their lives.
Facilitators should use a combination of lecture (minimal), experiential learning, and popular education techniques to engage the group actively in the process of learning about worker cooperatives and cooperative business development.
Beginning in 2013, SELC and the East Bay Community Law Center have been hosting half day workshops called "Think Outside the Boss" three times per year in the San Francisco Bay Area. These Think Outside the Boss workshops provide community members an introduction into the nuts and bolts of starting and running a cooperatively owned business. We go over legal issues in an accessible way to help you understand the relationships between cooperatives, employment, and community wealth-building. Attorneys, law students, and experienced cooperative professionals give short presentations on legal issues, governance structures, financing, and more. We also typically host breakout sessions on specialized topics with attorneys, cooperative accountants, business planning specialists, and discussions led by cooperative worker-members. To find the next Think Outside the Boss workshop, please visit theselc.org/events.
This facilitator’s guide was originally prepared for the 2014 JACKSON RISING: NEW ECONOMIES CONFERENCE in Jackson, Mississippi. Their clarion call to build a broad based solidarity economy in the southern US led us to deepen our intention of making legal education accessible to those building economic democracy all around the country. With feedback from the worker cooperative community, allies, and others who use our resources, we have attempted to refine this facilitator’s guide in order to increase its usefulness to the movement. We hope this guide can introduce cooperative entrepreneurs, practitioners, and cooperative developers to the basic legal concepts when starting and operating a worker-owned cooperative.
THIS GUIDE WAS PREPARED FOR A 2016 WORKSHOP ON STARTING A WORKER-OWNED BUSINESS. THE CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE AND ACCOMPANYING THINK OUTSIDE THE BOSS MANUAL SHOULD NOT BE RELIED ON AS LEGAL ADVICE.
ALSO, SOME OF THIS INFORMATION COULD BECOME OUTDATED, AND LAWS VARY FROM PLACE-TO-PLACE. FURTHERMORE, ALTHOUGH WE TRIED TO COLLECT ACCURATE INFORMATION AND GIVE THE LAWS OUR BEST INTERPRETATION, SOME INFORMATION IN THIS GUIDE AND ACCOMPANYING MANUAL COULD EVEN TURN OUT TO BE INCORRECT OR SUBJECT TO OTHER INTERPRETATIONS BY COURTS OR REGULATORS! WE SURE HOPE THAT’S NOT THE CASE, BUT, WHAT CAN WE SAY? LAW IS COMPLICATED STUFF! THAT'S WHY WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY BEFORE USING THIS INFORMATION TO FORM OR OPERATE A COOPERATIVE.
Araz Hachadourian of Yes! Magazine covers the passing of a co-op resolution in Berkeley, CA which requires the city to create an ordinance that supports worker owned cooperatives. Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) Policy Director, Yassi Eskandari-Qajar, is quoted extensively about how worker cooperatives benefit cities and communities.Read more
By Chris Tittle, Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) Director of Organizational Resilience
Last August, 200 people from across Oakland, California came together to envision and design a development plan for a small parcel of public land. For months leading up to that day, community members and neighborhood coalitions had been organizing against a controversial - and possibly illegal - plan to develop a luxury high-rise apartment complex on land owned by the City of Oakland, in a neighborhood where 75% of residents are low or very-low income and 75% are renters. Having succeeded in pressuring the City to back out of the initially proposed deal with UrbanCore Development through creative direct action and sophisticated community organizing, organizers with the E12th St Coalition wanted to create a visionary community-driven alternative - and the E12th WishList People’s Planning Forum was convened. On a sunny Sunday afternoon near Oakland’s Lake Merritt, hundreds of people shared their visions for what could be done with this public land - and not a single person envisioned a market-rate housing complex on that site.Read more
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Berkeley Passes Resolution Supporting
BERKELEY, CA (February 9, 2016) — On Tuesday, the City of Berkeley made a bold proclamation in support of democratic and equitable workplaces, passing City Councilmember Jesse Arreguín’s “Resolution Supporting the Development and Growth of Worker Cooperatives.”Read more
What do you get when you cross a worker cooperative with a 501(c)(3) nonprofit? A worker self-directed nonprofit!
As the movement for economic and workplace democracy continues to grow, we think it is vitally important that nonprofit organizations also internalize and practice workplace democracy. We've put a fair bit of thought into our own organizational structure and culture, and now we are working to provide resources, advice, research, and a peer network to support worker self-direction in nonprofits everywhere.
So what's a worker self-directed nonprofit? We are defining this as a nonprofit organization in which all workers have the power to influence the programs in which they work, the conditions of their workplace, their own career paths, and the direction of the organization as a whole. Our own experience practicing worker self-direction and an emerging body of research both show that distributing leadership throughout an organization can create organizations that are more effective at advancing their mission, more adaptable and responsive to complex systems, more accountable to their communities, and more equitable and fun places to work! Read more here.
There are lots of reasons to be critical of the nonprofit industry, but by their very nature, nonprofit organizations provide a structure that resists the strong pull toward private wealth accumulation. We should not abandon nonprofits. We should just democratize them!
Nonprofit Democracy Network
Now, more than ever, we must learn to govern ourselves. As nonprofits and movement workers committed to social transformation, how can we embody the change we want to see and become more effective, accountable, and equitable as we do it? The Nonprofit Democracy Network is a community of practice, organizational development training program, and peer support network for nonprofit organizations that want to deepen democracy within their organizations and make our movements for justice more participatory, responsive, and leaderful. Learn more and apply here!
Bite-Sized Legal Guide to Becoming a Worker Self-Directed Nonprofit
Click here to view this Bite-Sized Legal Guide, we explore how worker self-direction can help nonprofits better achieve their missions, as well as the legal considerations for becoming a worker self-directed nonprofit. This bite-sized guide also includes a sample board resolution for worker self-direction.
Model documents and other resources:
Click here to see all of the Law Center's internal policies and processes for worker self-direction. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license for easy sharing! This public Google Folder also has an ever-growing collection of handouts, slides, model documents, and more.
Topics and Videos:
- Who Sets Priorities at a Worker Self-Directed Nonprofit?
- The Role of The Board
- Meeting Processes
- Tour the Office of a WSDN!
- Onboarding New Staff
- Dividing Labor and Assigning Responsibilities
- Fiscal Sponsorship Versus Independent 501(c)(3)
- Bringing our Whole Selves to Work
- Alignment and Resiliency
- Setting Staff Compensation
- Peer Accountability and Performance Reviews
Periodically, we run in-person trainings on how to implement worker self-direction at our Resilient Communities Legal Cafe. Check our event calendar for upcoming events or email Chris@theselc.org to discuss a team-specific training.
If you need help forming or transitioning to a worker self-directed nonprofit, we are now offering phone consultations on a sliding scale of $50 to $300 per hour. These fees support our work in developing resources and workshops for nonprofits and in growing a movement of democratic workplaces in the nonprofit sector. We are able to provide both strategy and governance advice, and, depending on where you are located, legal advice. If you are interested in scheduling a consultation, please fill out this short survey and give us a little information about what you are looking for. We can’t guarantee that we can provide consultations in all cases, since our capacity is limited.
Networking: Join our Google Group and our Facebook Group to participate in an informal peer network for active and aspiring worker self-directed nonprofit practitioners. Connect with others, ask questions, and share resources about workplace democracy in nonprofit organizations.
Share your ideas and feedback: Take this short survey to help guide the direction of this project and let us know if you'd like to collaborate!
The US has the world's largest prison population at over 2,217,000 inmates. What would happen, though, if we began looking at worker cooperatives not only as an economic development tool but also as a tool for those incarcerated by the prison industrial complex? What transformational effects could this lead to? Are there examples of cooperatives made primarily of incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals and what can we learn from them? How can worker coops be an effective tool for those who were formerly incarcerated and how would it support re-entry?
For those seeking new, real solutions for our incarcerated or formerly incarcerated brothers and sisters, SELC hosted a discussion with Jessica Gordon Nembhard, professor at John Jay College, CUNY and author of Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice.